I blame Aki for the snow melting inside my already wet boots. We are on this trail because of the impatience she showed in the car. She was on fire to hit the trail so we chose this nearby trail which offers a snow covered passage through mountain meadows on Douglas Island.
Aki loves spring snow on warm sunny days. This morning she finds this meadow a refreshing field of white that she can cross without breaking through the crust. Weighing more than her, I break through the crust with every fourth step.
At first we follow the main trail to the Treadwell Ditch path. A Hadrian’s Wall of snow runs up the trail. I want to walk on the wall’s top but it is too narrow so I abandon it for a soft trench running along its base. Aki, who fits nicely on the wall can’t seem to understand why I want to leave it for the faint snowshoe trail that will carry us deeper into the meadow.
The trail crust holds my weight for a hundred meters and then loses cohesion so my boots form deep fence post holes with every step. Aki could rush ahead but chooses to stand by as ready to offer a lift up if I fall. I appreciate the spirit of the gesture and stop blaming her for what has the makings of a fiasco.
I find walking as tiring as it is frustrating and must stop often to rest. This allows moments to appreciate the constant drumming of male grouse, their love song, and the songs of nest building birds. A raven complains about our presence from a distance. Looking for him I spot a Northern Goshawk perched in the dying top of a tall hemlock.
The trail, which has taken us through a meadow of scattered and weather beaten pines now crests and I start a wet decent into a rich spruce forest. Facing south, this snow is yielding quickly to the sun. Enlarging ovals of bare ground around the spruce trees offer easier passage. Here and there skunk cabbage shoots, shaped like vivid yellow rocket ships push through the snow.
We pass fresh tracks of a waddling porcupine, Alaska’s hedgehog, and deeper ones left by a small deer. At the bottom of the slope the trail flattens out. I stop to study a wolf track made last night after colder temperatures firmed up the crust and that on a black bear made in the softer morning snow.
The wolf must be here for the deer but there is little in this snow covered place for a bear. Maybe he just emerged from his winter den up there on that high forested slope. A bear already visited Chicken Ridge. Aki and I ran into it on a recent evening constitutional. Sometimes they can be a bit grumpy this time a year but the bear tracks left in this mornings snow lead back up the slope.
With perseverance we reach bare ground and move more quickly to the trailhead. Three feisty blue jays fly into our airspace. Two descend into a bog full of skunk cabbage to feed. The third bird flies down the trail calling a challenge to Aki. It flies back over our heads to join its friends when we have moved away from the skunk cabbage patch.